Monday, October 13, 2008

A story about setup

When North American executives started going to Japan to tour plants, having heard of the “Japanese miracle”, one of the things they wanted to see was quick die change. Many did not believe that the Japanese were telling the truth about press setups in less than ten minutes, when their own best efforts were not yielding anything like it, and their own people were telling them that it was impossible.

One group of executives invited to see such a die change, and to be present at a specific stamping press in the plant they were visiting 11 am, when the next die change would take place. Since they were not paying very close attention to the time, they got to the press about 15 minutes late, and all they saw that day was some cleanup activities around the press, which by that time was already making parts. Astonished, they asked what had happened. They were told that, as scheduled, the press was changed over precisely at 11 am. They believed that 11 am was just a target, not a fixed time in the daily plan. They were informed that, had the setup crew waited for the executives to arrive, the rest of the day would have been thrown out of whack for a large number of people who depended for their work on parts flowing from the press in precise quantities, at precise intervals.

The lesson they learned was that quick changeover exists in an environment of precision and standardization, that it is not an isolated aspect of the production system.

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